Olympics-Climbing-Japan's Nonaka regroups after bruising bouldering qualifier

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By Sam Nussey and Rozanna Latiff

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese medal contender Miho Nonaka is regrouping before the women's final after a tough bouldering round during climbing qualifiers on Wednesday in the sport's Olympic debut.

Nonaka came out strong in the intial speed round, a vertical sprint up a 15 metre wall, ranking fourth with a time of 7.55 seconds. The athlete has made strides in the specialised event and was one of only six women to post sub-eight second runs.

However the Tokyo native struggled in her strongest event, bouldering, amid humid conditions on a sticky summer evening.

"It was the toughest round I've faced in recent competitions," said the 24-year-old. "It was hard to refocus mentally."

In bouldering athletes attack a series of obstacles along a low wall. Nonaka solved just one of four problems and came eighth.

"It was hot and I slipped and I got tired after repeated tries," said Nonaka, who has grappled with injury and had ice packs strapped to her knee and arm.

Following the bouldering setback Nonaka put in a top three performance in lead, a roped climb up a vertiginous wall, to secure her place in Friday's final.

"I feel I have grown mentally getting through bouldering and into the final so, while there are things to fix, I think it's okay to feel happy about it," said Nonaka.

Nonaka will be joined by teammate Akiyo Noguchi in a strong showing by Japanese climbers. Tomoa Narasaki will also compete in the men's final on Thurday.

To secure gold one of the women will have to beat Slovenia's Janja Garnbret https://www.reuters.com/article/olympics-2020-clb-idUKL8N2PB6AW, who was nervy in speed but put on a masterful display in bouldering and solved all four problems.

(Reporting by Sam Nussey and Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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